The Dual Status Task Force (DSTF) primarily focuses on promoting effective judicial practices and identifying gaps and strengths in policies and practices that support youth involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.

The Children’s Commission has worked since its inception to strengthen courts for children and families in the Texas child protection system. Federal Court Improvement funds require a focus on children who are abused and neglected but children involved in the juvenile justice system present with many of the same challenges and needs. The Texas Judicial Council recommended to the Supreme Court in 2018 that the Children’s Commission should convene a task force to study and report on issues relating to youth with involvement in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The task force was formed to establish a common, statewide definition(s) for the population, identify resources needed to meet the needs of youth who are dually involved, and make other recommendations as may be necessary to improve outcomes for dually involved youth. The Task Force is directed also to address training needs for judges and other necessary parties on handling cases involving youth involved in both systems. The Task Force is co-chaired by Judge Gary Coley of the 74th District Court in Waco and Judge Lisa Jarrett of the 436th District Court in San Antonio.

2018 Texas Judicial Council Committee Report and Recommendations on Juvenile Justice

Members: Hon. Gary Coley, co-chair, Hon. Lisa Jarrett, co-chair, Julian Apolinar, Charles Batiste, Hon. Renee Betancourt, Kimberly Burley, Hon. Darlene Byrne, Angel Carroll, Wayne Carson, Sarah Crockett, Kim Dayton, Michele Deitch, Katya Dow, Debra Emerson, Hon. Dena Fisher, Teal de la Garza, Hon. Delia Gonzales, Quyona Gregg, Sean Grove, Anissa Johnson, Hon. Cheryll Mabray, Jill Mata, Estela Medina, Rosie Medina, Brett Merfish, Kate Murphy, Hon. Valencia Nash, Kelly Opot, Cindy Patrick, Lauren Rose, Hon. Dean Rucker, Riley Shaw, Kaci Singer, David Slayton, Matt Smith, Stephanie Stevens, Kaysie Taccetta, Jeffrey Tsunekawa, Hon. Cyndi Wheless.

Staff: Jamie Bernstein, Andrea Vicencio

Texas Bar Journal October coverAn article entitled “Two Doors to the Courthouse,” authored by Judge Gary Coley of Waco and Judge Lisa Jarrett of San Antonio, provided insights on the needs of youth involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare system, also referred to as dual status youth. Each system operates within a different framework, organizational structure, and funding mechanism. Often the legal system response is similarly fragmented. For youth, the complexities of system involvement are often exacerbated by interactions with more than one system at a time. The challenges also range from theoretical, such as whether the youth is considered a victim or a perpetrator, to practical considerations including how placement decisions are made. For the youth to be successful, collaboration between the professionals and caregivers is critical. Through communication and coordination at the state and local levels, both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems can accomplish the mutually reinforcing goals of safety and rehabilitation.